Franchise Relocation, 1950 to 1977
In 1958, during the courtship between Los Angeles and the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Walter O'Malley, one city official promised him the moon, but he asked for more. Norris Poulson, a member of a group of Californians who were then trying to lure the Dodgers to Los Angeles, said one could hardly blame O'Malley. "He had a valuable package in the Dodgers and he knows it." O'Malley made no promises and insisted that he would consider moving his team to Southern California only if Los Angeles agreed to build him a ballpark. Although the city did not construct a new stadium for the Dodgers, it acquiesced to give O'Malley 185 acres of land and to purchase the club an additional 115 acres at a price not to exceed $7,000 per acre. Sweetening the deal further, Los Angeles promised to contribute $2 million toward grading and $2.7 million for constructing access roads. The latter sum came from the state gasoline tax fund. And, the Dodgers moved to the West Coast. 1
To explore team movements further, this chapter analyzes the relocation of professional baseball, football, and basketball franchises from 1950 to 1977. Along the way, we discuss the pertinent economic, demographic, and team performance characteristics that motivated and justified each move that occurred in MLB, the NFL, AFL, NBA, and ABA. After analyzing such data, we address several questions concerning the relocation of major league teams. For instance, which teams moved? What factors influenced the decision of owners to relocate their franchises? Did the relocation result in greater economic returns to proprietors and the leagues? Do similarities exist in the relocation patterns of the teams in the three sports during the period under investigation?